A Dinner to Remember, and not only because Joanna Stavins and I were celebrating our 26th anniversary. Our evening at Salts in Cambridge was as good as a dinner experience can be, and ranks -- for me -- together with some of the most memorable dinners we've enjoyed together. True enough, Salts is not as ambitious (or pretentious) as Menton or L'Espalier -- two places we like very much and where we've enjoyed anniversary dinners in recent years -- but the experience can be even better, although in quite different ways. Salts is a small, elegant restaurant (see photos of entry and the room), with exceptionally warm hosts, superb cuisine, excellent service, and a well-constructed wine list.
The credit goes to the co-owners, Chef Gabriel Bremer, and his wife, Analia Verolo, who functions as maitre d'hotel (in the European style, that is, as head waiter). She truly made us feel that we were being welcomed into her home.
As we sat down, we noticed that our table had been thoughtfully decorated with a trail of silver hearts and stars (photo). We smiled and ordered a half-bottle of Schramsberg Brut, the venerable California methode champenoise. Soon an Amouse Bouche of pumpkin soup with ginger foam and lemon was placed before us (photo). Delicious, and a hint of things to come.
We ordered our first and main courses. Bread was served with wonderful butter that tasted homemade (photo). Is it perhaps from their farm in Canterbury, New Hampshire? The attention here to detail is remarkable. At one point in the evening, I asked for some salt. Not surprisingly perhaps, a plate of four different salts (photo) was brought to the table.
We continued to enjoy the Schramsberg with our first courses. Joanna had the Assiette of Rabbit (photo), which features rabbit prepared four (very differnet) ways. An exceptionally beautiful presentation, but we both thought that my first course -- while not as lovely to look at -- was over-the-top delicious: Soft Cooked Farm Egg, Burgundy Snails, Foraged Mushrooms, Steel Cut Oat "Risotto," and Spring Garlic. All of this is served in a deep soup bowl, and is eaten with a spoon. Incredible!
Dinner was served at an appropriate, leisurely pace. I ordered a bottle of 2010 Talley Pinot Noir from the Arroyo Grande Valley in San Luis Obispo of the Central Coast of California. Analia brought a change of glassware and the bottle to the table. I'm pleased to say that it was the perfect temperature, something that is not to be taken for granted even in fine restaurants.
Now we come to our main course, which was simply sublime. If you go to Salts, you must have it. But, be warned, it needs to be ordered in advance (perhaps the day before), which we did: Whole Roasted Duck for Two, Lavender Honey Glazed, with Roasted Pears, Heirloom Carrots, and Petite Farm Turnips. It's brought to the table for presentation before carving (photo), and then one of the waiters carves this massive duck and serves two plated portions (photo). The duck is unlike any duck I have previously eaten at any restaurant in the world. The skin was incredibly crispy and very tasty, and the meat of the duck -- which seemed to have at least twice the amount of any "normal" duck -- was moist, flavorful, and generally superb! There was still a considerable amount of the duck on the serving platter, and so when we declined second portions, the waiter asked if he could package the remainder for us to take home. Of course, we agreed!
We were both too full to order dessert, but Analia appeared with a complimentary dessert of three ice creams and sorbets with a beautiful and edible Happy Anniversary pastry (photo). At this point, we asked for the check, as our ride was on its way (our daughter, Julia Stavins, was kind enough to drop us off and pick us up, so that we could both enjoy the wines). There was more. And a final offering of sweets came to our table (photo). To bring the evening to a close, we were delighted when Chef Gabriel Bremer came to the table (photo), so that we could personally thank him for such a wonderful evening. I asked him what is the secret of the ducks, which are meaty beyond anything that I've ever seen. His response was the same as Analia's when I asked her -- "we've searched for the best ducks, and we love these from Long Island."
So, thanks to Gabriel, Analia, and their entire staff (photo) for an evening we will not forget. Of course, needless to say, we will be back!